In 2017-18, the Emory Dance Program is hosting a year-long collaboration with the acclaimed Trisha Brown Dance Company. The collaboration began with a residency with two members of the company. Dancer Jamie Scott and Associate Director Carolyn Lucas set the historic work Solo Olos on six Emory Dance Company members. Jamie and Carolyn also engaged in a Creativity Conversation with the Emory community, where they provided us with insights into some of Trisha’s life and work. This residency took place over the course of two weeks in an intensive-style learning environment, and some of the students who worked closely with the artists shared their experiences with us.
Trisha Brown was a post-modern dancer and choreographer beginning in the 1970s, and was very intrigued by task-oriented movement. Solo Olos is a work she originally created for five people, whereby one caller determines which movement sequences the dancers on stage will execute. The dancers can be guided, interrupted, and asked to leave by the caller at any point in time. Solo Olos was set on Emory dancers over the course of a two-week intensive, with rehearsals every weekday for three hours, and every weekend for eight hours. Read on to find out more.
*Responses have been edited for length and clarity
Why were you interested in being a part of this work? What has been your favorite part of the process?
“I really admire Trisha Brown and saw the chance to be in one of her pieces as a once in a lifetime opportunity. My favorite part of the process has been working with Jamie in rehearsals and in class, because I was able to see how Brown's style of movement transcended Solo Olos into all of her other works. To be able to play with so many of her pieces was really fun and helped me to embody and understand the movement.” – Elise Stumpf ‘21
“My favorite part of the process was reversing the material. Jamie taught us the forward version of the phrases, but we had to work through the reverse on our own or in small groups. This was definitely a challenge, but it was a lot of fun and I think I learned a lot about the forward movement by going through it in such depth to find the reverse.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19
“I've been really interested in learning and performing Solo Olos ever since last semester, when I heard about Trisha Brown Dance Company potentially coming for a residency. It is such an iconic work within Trisha's repertory, but also within the post-modern dance era. My favorite part of the process has been reversing the phrases. Although it took a lot of brain power and time, it was rewarding to know that I'm capable of retrograding movement.” – Maggie Vail ‘18
“While most pieces I’ve been in seem to have some sort of underlying meaning or theme, Solo Olos seems to lack this element and feels more like a game. The actual movement requires a sense of release in the body while still being super specific, which was a difficult quality to find and incorporate choreographically.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19
“You cannot let the movement take you on its ride, you have to constantly be hyper-aware and alert.” – Katie Messina ‘18
“Because of the structure of the work, we as dancers have to have a lot of mental and physical adeptness to reverse phrases on command and think on the spot, but it's really beautiful and fulfilling to be a part of a work that is constantly changing. As a cast, we're working together so smoothly that we're able to decipher what the caller and fellow dancers are trying to do and catch on.” – Maggie Vail ‘18
How did learning this piece in an intensive style environment feel? Do you think it changed the way you interpreted the work?
“The intensive style made me appreciate the piece because the more time and effort put in, the more feasible the piece became through constant rehearsal. It all began to flow and come together into Trisha Brown's vision, and it was great to see the transition.” – Alex Faife ‘21
“I think being with Jamie every day for two weeks definitely helped in learning the material. The choreography wasn't something that I could've easily taken a break from and come back to. Learning it in an intensive format feels very internal and intuitive to me because we've practiced it so much in such a short period of time.” – Elise Stumpf ‘21
“This is my fifth intensive with the Emory Dance Program (Bebe Miller, Sara Barry, Dante Brown, Yossi Berg and Oded Graf Dance Theater, and now Trisha Brown Dance Company), so I've had my share of experiences learning work within an expedited time span. I think learning Solo Olos in a two-week period was useful for learning the material forwards and backwards, and drilling how to respond to the caller/s with ease. Those two weeks definitely took immense physical and mental power, but I'm thankful for Jamie Scott and the practice because we can run the piece with much more confidence during our maintenance rehearsals.” – Maggie Vail ‘18
If you were ever a caller, please describe that experience. Did you enjoy it?
“I am most likely going to call at least one of the shows we perform. I struggled with this decision. I really want to dance as much as possible in my final year at Emory, so in theory, calling means you do not physically dance as much. Additionally, it is hard for people who are unfamiliar with her work to grasp the true importance of the caller. I personally really enjoy calling. I feel very calm in it, and like being the architect of the piece and space.” – Katie Messina ‘18
“Calling was a lot of fun for me. It provides an opportunity to compose the space as you’re seeing it, which is really unique. It’s really fascinating to see what can come out of the piece just by calling a few simple things, as the structure of the piece and the different tracks within it already allow for some interesting compositions.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19
“I was a caller a few times and I enjoyed it, but wouldn't say I was very good at it. It is difficult to do because the caller needs to understand the map of the piece really well to know when to call, what to call, who to call, and how to call it in order for the piece to continuously flow. The caller needs to bring the dancers in and out of unison, and has to ultimately bring everyone back to the beginning together after 10-12 minutes.” – Alex Faife ‘21
How did your historical background knowledge of Trisha Brown affect your perception of this piece?
“I learned about Trisha Brown in high school and have been a fan of her work since then because of its uniqueness and complexity. My knowledge that her pieces were physical and have a specific theme gave me a preconception of what working with Jamie would be like, but actually learning and rehearsing it definitely showed me just how rigorous her work is.” – Alex Faife ‘21
“I think my knowledge about Trisha Brown and her style from Emory’s Dance History course prepared me for this piece and gave me a good idea of what to expect. Having learned the work, I now have experienced this piece and perceive it almost as a game, which fits into this perception I had of Trisha Brown’s work being very task-oriented.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19
“Having seen videography of Trisha Brown’s work, I would say at first this piece seemed daunting because I was trying to imitate her movement, but I think in doing that I realized it's not about imitating her as much as it is about embodying a feeling and quality, which made the movement feel more natural to me.” – Elise Stumpf ‘21
Thank you Alex, Elise, Katie, Maggie and Serena!
Click here for a more in-depth analysis of the life and work of Trisha Brown!
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